How about water quality monitoring on Planet Earth?
It was the ultimate irony. The moon was bombed to find water. Prior to that, the discovery of water molecules in the moon had made it to the headlines of every newspaper.
Note that when reports said “water on the moon”, they were not talking about oceans, rivers, lakes or even puddles! They were just saying that the moon is not bone-dry as thought previously. Water or hydroxyl molecules, which were bound to other molecules, were found to exist in trace amounts over the lunar surface.
Meanwhile, on Planet Earth, you still don’t need a telescope to find water. Wonder of wonders, there is a water cycle here which actually brings showers from the skies and fills rivers, lakes and underground reservoirs. It’s a different matter that the water cycle seems to have changed gears and modelling it is becoming akin to rocket science.
More dangerously, you don’t need a microscope to know that the quality of water has degraded to the point that rivers are indistinguishable from sewers in many countries. Groundwater, which was once regarded as a source of clean water has also become a sink for contaminants from agriculture, industry and urban wastes.
One question I am often asked is, “What can we do as individuals for water other than repairing leaky faucets and not wasting water?”
My answer is – support the World Water Monitoring Day (WWMD). This is an excellent initiative that seeks to involve citizens in carrying out basic monitoring of local water bodies. A great way to spend a weekend would be to go to a nearby river or lake and take a sample of water to test for basic quality parameters.
An easy-to-use test kit, which can be ordered from WWMD organisers can be used even by children to measure temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity) and dissolved oxygen (DO) of water samples. Five to ten people can use one test kit which costs US$13, which is pocket-money for many Asian children. Those who want to use their own equipment can do so. Results are shared with participating communities around the globe at http://www.worldwatermonitoringday.org, the WWMD website.
WWMD is officially celebrated on September 18. However, the monitoring window has been extended from March 22 (World Water Day) until December 31 starting this year.
Results from 2008 show that civil societies from only a few countries in Asia have taken interest in water quality monitoring. Countries like China and India have only sent results from 11 and 21 sites respectively, while Spain has monitored 728 sites. Clearly, a lot of work needs to be done. We need to press for advanced monitoring of our waters, but we are not even concerned with basic monitoring.
Unless citizens take an active interest in safeguarding their water resources and ask questions about where pollutants are coming from, governments will not act. They will only bomb more moons for hydroxyl molecules.